Wednesday, December 31, 2014


A small room inside a bay window. A single bed, a table and chair, and a sink. I could manage something larger, with more conveniences, but I could never match the view.

The party next door began as a pair of high heels gently kicking their way up the stairs. A soft knock, muffled laughter, and the door shutting harder than the knock.

Hours later, it is the ocean roar of a crowd I hear. Someone brought an accordion, and every now and then attempts "Auld Lang Syne", getting a bar or two further than the previous attempt before collapsing on the wrong note.

We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine;
but we've wandered many a weary foot,
since days of long ago.

Monday, December 29, 2014

"With a Little Help from My Friends"




Joe Cocker's performance of Lennon-McCartney's "With a Little Help from My Friends" was a highlight of the 1969 Woodstock Music & Art Fair. Apart from Cocker's expressive vocal (of which Rolling Stone writer John Mendelsohn wrote: "his feeling for what he is singing cannot really be questioned"), it is the backing vocals that I most look forward to every time I come upon the film version of this fair.

In the studio version of the song, the backing vocals are supplied by four women -- Madeline Bell, Rosetta Hightower, Sue Wheetman and Sunny Wheetman. But at Woodstock the gender roles are reversed and the backing vocals come to us from Cocker's long-haired male guitarist and bassist -- in falsetto. What could have easily turned this song into a farce turns it into something infinitely more ambiguous. A "live" music classic.

R.I.P Joe Cocker (May 20, 1944 - December 22, 2014).

Sunday, December 28, 2014

"Killer Queen" (1974)




Yesterday's post features a song lyric with some nice gender role reversals, including a "king in the kitchen/ Cooking breakfast for the queen."

Zanzibar's Freddie Mercury was aware of how gender roles are constructed -- and a "master" at blurring them.

KILLER QUEEN
(Freddie Mercury)

She keeps her Moet et Chandon
In her pretty cabinet
'Let them eat cake,' she says
Just like Marie Antoinette
A built-in remedy
For Kruschev and Kennedy
At anytime an invitation
You can't decline

Caviar and cigarettes
Well versed in etiquette
Extraordinarily nice

She's a Killer Queen
Gunpowder, gelatine
Dynamite with a laserbeam
Guaranteed to blow your mind
Anytime
Ooh, recommended at the price
Insatiable an appetite
Wanna try ?

To avoid complications
She never kept the same address
In conversation
She spoke just like a baroness
Met a man from China
Went down to Geisha Minah
(killer, killer, she's a Killer Queen)
Then again incidentally
If you're that way inclined

Perfume came naturally from Paris (naturally)
For cars she couldn't care less
Fastidious and precise

She's a Killer Queen
Gunpowder, gelatine
Dynamite with a laser beam
Guaranteed to blow your mind
Anytime

Drop of a hat she's as willing as
Playful as a pussy cat
Then momentarily out of action
Temporarily out of gas
To absolutely drive you wild, wild..
She's all out to get you

She's a Killer Queen
Gunpowder, gelatine
Dynamite with a laser beam
Guaranteed to blow your mind
Anytime

Ooh, recommended at the price
Insatiable an appetite
Wanna try ?

You wanna try...

Saturday, December 27, 2014

"Cry Baby Cry" (1968)




An advertisement combined with a nursery rhyme.

CRY BABY CRY
(Lennon/McCartney)
Cry baby cry
Make your mother sigh
She's old enough to know better
The king of marigold was in the kitchen
Cooking breakfast for the queen
The queen was in the parlor
Playing piano for the children of the king
Cry baby cry
Make your mother sigh
She's old enough to know better
So cry baby cry
The king was in the garden
Picking flowers for a friend who came to play
The queen was in the playroom
Painting pictures for the children's holiday
Cry baby cry
Make your mother sigh
She's old enough to know better
So cry baby cry
The Duchess of Kircaldy always smiling
And arriving late for tea
The duke was having problems
With a message at the local bird and bee
Cry baby cry
Make your mother sigh
She's old enough to know better
So cry baby cry
At twelve o'clock a meeting round the table
For a seance in the dark
With voices out of nowhere
Put on specially by the children for a lark
Cry baby cry
Make your mother sigh
She's old enough to know better
So cry baby cry, cry, cry, cry baby
Make your mother sigh
She's old enough to know better
So cry baby cry, cry, cry, cry
Make your mother sigh
She's old enough to know better
So cry baby cry
Can you take me back where I came from?
Can you take me back?
Can you take me back where I came from?
Brother can you take me back?
Can you take me back?
Can you take me where I came from?
Can you take me back?

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Box Tops on Boxing Day




The Box Tops performing their Dan Penn/Spooner Oldham-penned hit.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

An Art Critic's Poem From a City Not My Own


A City Poem
(Frank O'Hara)

1
I understand the boredom of the clerks
fatigue shifting like dunes within their eyes
a frightful nausea gumming up the works
that once was thought aggression in disguise.
Do you remember? then how lightly dead
seemed the moon when over factories
it languid slid like a barrage of lead
above the heart, the fierce inventories
of desire. Now women wander our dreams
carrying money and to our sleep's shame
our hands twitch not for swift blood-sunk triremes
nor languorous white horses nor ill fame,
but clutch the groin that clouds a pallid sky
where tow'rs are sinking in their common eye.

2
My ship is flung upon the gutter's wrist
and cries for help of storm to violate
that flesh your curiosity too late
has flushed. The stem your garter tongue would twist
has sunk upon the waveless bosom's mist,
thigh of the city, apparition, hate,
and the tower whose doves have, delicate,
fled into my blood where they are not kissed.

You have left me to the sewer's meanwhile,
and I have answered the sea's open wish
to love me as a bonfire's watchful hand
guards red the shore and guards the hairy strand,
our most elegant lascivious bile,
my ship sinking beneath the gutter's fish.

3
How can I then, my dearest winter lay,
disgorge the tasty worm that eats me up
falling onto the stem of a highway
whose ardent rainbow is the spoon's flat cup
and in the vilest of blue suited force
enamored of the heated needle's arm
finds the ministrant an own tongue's remorse
so near the blood and still so far from harm,
thus to be eaten up and gobbled down
volcanoes of speedometers, the strike
that heats the iris into flame and flow'rs
the panting chalice so a turning pike:
you are not how the gods refused to die,
and I am scarred forever neath the eye.

4
What are my eyes? if they must feed me, rank
with forgetting, in the jealous forest
of lustrous blows, so luminously blank
through smoke and in the light. All faint, at rest,
yet I am racing towards the fear that kills
them off, friends and lovers, hast'ning through tears
like alcohol high in the throat of hills
and hills of night, alluring! their black cheers
falling upon my ears like nails. And there
the bars grow thick with onanists and camps
and bivouacs of bears with clubs, are fair
with their blows, deal death beneath purple lamps
and to me! I run! closer always move,
crying my name in fields of dead I love.

5
I plunge deep within this frozen lake
whose mirrored fastnesses fill up my heart,
where tears drift from frivolity to art
all white and slobbering, and by mistake
are the sky. I'm no whale to cruise apart
in fields impassive of my stench, my sake,
my sign to crushing seas that fall like fake
pillars to crash! to sow as wake my heart

and don't be niggardly. The snow drifts low
and yet neglects to cover me, and I
dance just ahead to keep my heart in sight.
How like a queen, to seek with jealous eye
the face that flees you, hidden city, white
swan. There's no art to free me, blinded so. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Three Noteworthy Shows



At its best, the "Best Of" list provides an opportunity for its author to highlight that which was missed in the midst of writing about other stuff.

Because I am human, I miss more than I see, and it is for this reason that I submitted a "Best of" list to my editors at Canadian Art.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Artists, Art Critics, All Around Emotions Managers




Brad Phillips is an artist whose paintings I admire. I remember when he moved to Vancouver.

At the beginning of his essay for Artslant, Brad, who now resides in Ontario, describes himself as "astonished," which I find hard to believe of someone as self-possessed as he is.

Sky Goodden is an Ontario-based editor who is trying to establish a magazine of art criticism. I remember when she visited Vancouver last summer.

Well into her response to Brad's essay, Sky talks about her visit here and how disappointed she was in the city's art critics. What she doesn't tell us is that she came here not to visit with critics but with gallerists who might buy ads in her magazine.

Amy Fung describes herself as a "Writer,  Organizer, @ImagesFestival Artistic Director. All Around Emotions Manager." I remember when she moved to Vancouver.

At the beginning of her response to Sky's response, Amy, who now resides in Ontario, finds it "surprising" that Sky's article is "making me want to respond, since in many ways I have stopped caring about circular conversations."

Saturday, December 20, 2014

"Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" (1963)




Last night's last Letterman performance is not up yet, so last year's will have to do.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas Tree




The market's conical mosaic.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Seasonal Tree



Vancouver Art Gallery librarian Cheryl Siegel's seasonal tree is once again up and on display.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Glacier Water




An insurer promotes its client's praise.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Retreating Glacier




The scale of an event -- in space and time.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Climate Change



The United Nations climate change summit in Lima, Peru is coming to and end, and "[n]one of us is really happy," said a member of the Swiss delegation.

With temperatures and sea levels rising, are there any theologians out there willing to tell world leaders that the afterlife includes vacations on Earth after the deluge?

Friday, December 12, 2014

Tom Burrows



Also opening on January 8, 2015 is Tom Burrows at the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery. A shuttle bus will be available for those who would like attend both openings.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Mainstreeters: Taking Advantage 1972-1982



This Monday, amidst the bustle of Christmas shopping, co-curator Allison Collins and I take possession of Satellite Gallery (560 Seymour, upstairs), where we will begin the installation of Mainstreeters: Talking Advantage 1972-1982, an exhibition we have worked on for the past year-and-a-half.

For more information, click here.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


A small room inside a bay window. A single bed, a table and chair, and a sink. I could manage something larger, with more conveniences, but I could never match the view.

The rains are hard and at times sound like poured gravel. The radio host I wake up to talks in nervous tones of waves pounding the southern suburbs. 

"El NiƱo," he keeps saying, "a cycle of warm and cold air."

The cause of this oscillation is still under study.

Another load of gravel. I roll over and think not of sheep but of sandbags.

Monday, December 8, 2014

"Ash Hash"




A Bob Snider song "about" what it is to be stoned.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

"Pictures of Someone I Used to Know"




Bob Snider is known for his story songs (or essay songs, in some instances). But he has written many songs over the years, some of which are small and tender and feel like a raindrop sliding off a leaf. Like this one.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Bob Snider




In 1990 our band was invited to play the Mariposa Folk Festival, held that year at Molson Park in Barrie, Ontario, just north of Toronto.

I have many fond memories of this festival, some of which include singing "Walking Cane" with legendary folksinger Ed McCurdy, who signed my banjo ("Peace!"), Stompin' Tom Connors, who signed my guitar, as well as contemporary musicians like the Leslie Spit Tree-O, Violent Femmes, and a then-unknown singer-songwriter who has, over the past quarter-century, penned some very nice tunes: Ron Sexsmith.

But of all the musicians we met at the festival, the meeting I cherish most was with Bob Snider, whom we rode up with from Toronto.

The video above, which is from the musical performance series The Neighbour's Dog, is a good example of what Bob does well.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Malibu Creek State Park




A 1970 film set made to look like a mobile army surgical hospital in 1950s Korea. Here, at Malibu Creek State Park, bodies were dressed to look wounded and, during their repair by kooky sexist doctors, we realize, in that simple Hollywood way, that it is not the Korean War that is supplying these "extras", but its sequel.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Scopic Beheadings




In this interview, the subject begins by saying: "The idea of the film set is almost like a military operation." Later he mentions how, at the start of every morning, members of the cast and crew are given "call sheets" that outline the scenes to be shot that day.

I was never sure of the origin of the expression "calling the shots," but assumed it did not begin with a film director. One example I found was of a Confederate soldier calling out incoming cannon balls to camp cooks; another from billiards.

Returning to the video, note the three portraits above the interview subject -- each one cut off at the neck by the video camera.